People in England and Wales are more class conscious today than they were in the 1980s!
This is according to the latest British Social Attitudes data. The latest wave of the BSA surveys was carried out between 7th September and 30th October 2022. The sample size was 6638, which is double the usual 3000 respondents.
Social class identity in Britain in 2022
People today are much more likely to identify as working class.
- 29% of people identified as middle class
- 46% of people identified as working class.
- In 2022 people are more likely to identify as either working or middle class rather than ‘no class’.
- From the 1980s of the 2010s there was a stable level of class identification. Around 30% identified as working class, and 20% as middle class
- Since 2015 class identification has increased, for both classes.
- This is despite the decline in traditionally working class jobs!
The survey asked people the following question:
Do you ever think of yourself as belonging to any particular social class?
- Yes, middle class
- Yes, working class
- Yes (other) please write in
If they didn’t respond as being either middle or working class a prompt question followed. This referred specifically to being either class. The above figures show the unprompted responses, so people who self-identified as either middle or working class.
Who identifies as working class?
The job someone does isn’t necessarily related to the social class they feel they are. Although people who do traditionally working class jobs are more likely to identify as working class.
- 62% of people in working class jobs identify as working class
- 38% of people in middle class jobs identify as working class.
Level of education is correlated with social class identity
- 60% of people who left school with GCSEs as their highest level of qualification identify as working class
- 28% who went to university identify as social class.
Somewhat surprisingly income levels are less well correlated with social class identity than education. 52% of those in the lowest quintile identified as working class compared to 32% of those in the highest.
Attitudes towards social class mobility
84% of respondents said they thought it was fairly or very difficult to move from one class to another in 2022. This has increased from just 59% of respondents in 2005.
Attitudes to politics and social policy
Those who self identify as working class are more likely to hold left wing values. They are more likely to be supportive of policies which redistribute wealth and which restrict wealth accumulation.
Interestingly those who identify as working class are no more likely to hold authoritarian views compared to those who identify as middle class. In other words, working class people are no more likely to ‘blame the immigrants’ for our problems than middle class people.
Relevance to A-level sociology
This material is an important update to the social class identity topic. This topic is part of the culture and identity module.
National Centre for Social Research (September 2023) 40 years of British Social Attitudes: Class identity and awareness still matter